During a call in segment on the Today show about personal finance, an elderly woman called in and asked if she could withdraw funds without paying taxes from an IRA that she inherited since she’s older than 59 ½. The rule is that at 59 ½ you may withdraw without penalty but tax will always be a necessary requirement. So, clearly the woman is wrong but that’s okay because she is calling in to talk to an expert and there’s no shame in not knowing something. If there was, I’d be walking around with a scarlet “Dumb Ass” on my chest.
Anyway, a simple explanation would have set this lady straight and a simple goodbye would have sent her on her way.
Yet, I was shocked to hear the personal finance expert, Jean Chatzky, tell her, “No, you’re confused” followed by a detailed explanation of the facts.
You’re confused? WTF?
In my opinion, this is a good example of how we are socialized to create imaginary caste systems in our own little heads. This caste system is based on so many different things – race, age, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity etc. and it governs how we view the world. Chatzky just mass-communicated to the world that when an elderly person is incorrect, then they are by default confused and feeble. This is my absolute top-of-the-list pet peeve…people who speak to the elderly as if they were children or in an otherwise condescending manner. How are you gonna tell a grown ass person that he or she is confused? Why not just give her a goddamn time out? How about you spank her little, wrinkled fanny while you’re at it?
I mean why the old lady gotta be confused? Even rocket scientists are wrong about some shit some times. Ask a physicist when Tupac got shot! Not so smart after all, eh?
The real issue to me is that it’s clear in her answer that Chatzy has a diminished view of the caller for some reason…I suspect age but maybe she just has something against callers named Myrtle. Had the caller been a 30-year old man, he would not likely have been told that he was confused. He may have been told that he was incorrect, sure…but not confused.
Don’t think there’s an impact? There are a plenty of old folks who lost their retirement when the economy bottomed out. These people are looking for work but generally speaking, no one wants to hire older Americans. Branding them as confused does nothing more than perpetuate an insidious, incorrect characterization that cheats the economy out of a knowledgebase that could potentially inject a higher level of expertise into the marketplace.
Instead you got folks like Chatzky subtly convincing us that an older American will come to work and walk around in circles all day trying to remember where she parked rather than making a contribution to the bottom line. When in reality youth doesn’t guarantee you won’t be confused. Shit, every time I go to the mall there’s only a 50/50 chance that I’m driving home the same car I drove there.
Look, several days ago I announced to the world that I thought it was time to get my mama a Jitterbug because this mobile technology was overwhelming her. But my mama is also an astute, college-educated businesswoman with a husband of 40plus years, 5 kids and a lingering accent that makes it impossible for her to discuss her favorite singer, Lou Rawls. She just can’t use — or see — her phone worth a damn. She’s not confused.
What this boils down to is the value we neglect to place on the wisdom and experience elderly Americans bring to the table. Our culture may worship youth but some us have been taught to value the wisdom of old folks particularly our parents (although not always without a fight.) We listen, we learn and then we talk about putting them in a home behind their backs like normal people do. What we don’t do is baby talk them or call them “Sweetie” or talk down to them.
So what if my dad goes to the market every couple of days to buy fresh bananas only to come home and lose one and walk around the house several times asking everyone if they’ve seen it. He was born in a time and place where he couldn’t make direct eye contact with white people or he’d risk being lynched. He lived to see a black President elected to office ( even though black boys are still being lynched. Sorry, but you know who I am by now.) There’s hands-on experience in that lifespan – he educated himself and his family and taught us that no man-made social construct can prevent us from being whatever we wanted to be and doing whatever we wanted to do. That’s right, he made us uppity! He’s many things but what he’s NOT is confused.
So all that to say that my old ass parents are super dope and that Chatzky broad should be ashamed of herself. For her disrespect AND her stupid name.